1. The Holy Apostle Philip.
Born in Palestinian Caesarea, he was married and had four daughters, all four endowed by God with the gift of discernment and all four vowed virgins for the sake of Christ (Acts 21:8-9). When the holy apostles chose deacons, Philip was chosen along with Stephen and the others (6:5). Philip served the poor and the widows with great fervour. When persecution fell on the Christians in Jerusalem, he fled to Samaria and there preached the Gospel and witnessed to it by many miracles, driving out demons, healing the sick and so forth. Seeing the miracles of the holy apostle, Simon the Magician was baptised. St Philip also baptised the eunuch of Queen Candace. After that, an angel of God suddenly and invisibly bore him away to Azotus, where he taught and preached, bringing many to Christ (Acts 8). He was later made bishop in Tralles. He died peacefully in great old age, and entered into the joy of his Lord.
2. Commemoration of the Seventh Ecumenical Council.
This Council was held in 787 in Nicaea, in the reign of the devout Empress Irene and her son Constantine, and in the time of Patriarch Tarasius. This Council finally upheld the veneration of icons, expounding it from Holy Scripture, the witness of the holy fathers and the examples of miracles in connection with the holy icons. Among other examples cited, the Cypriot bishop, Constantine, brought forward this one: A herdsman from the city of Constantia, driving his flock out to pasture one day, saw an icon of the Mother of God adorned with flowers by the devout. 'Why give so much honour to a rock?', said the herdsman, obviously brought up in iconoclasm, and threw his iron stave at the icon, damaging the right eye of the Mother of God. As soon as he had left that spot, he stumbled over the same stave and put out his own right eye. Returning blinded to the city, he cried out tearfully that it was a punishment from the Mother of God.
This Council also decided that the relics of the martyrs be placed in the antimins.* Three hundred and sixty-seven fathers took part in the Council. May the Lord have mercy on us and save us by their prayers.
*Antimins: a cloth containing relics of the saints that is spread on the Holy Table for the celebration of the Liturgy - Tr.
3. Our Holy Father Theophanes the Hymnographer (the Branded).
A confessor and writer of Canons, he was born in Arabia of wealthy and devout parents. With his brother Theodore (see Dec. 27th), he became a monk in the monastery of St Sava the Sanctified. Being very well-educated monks, they were sent by Patriarch Thomas of Jerusalem to Leo the Armenian, to explain things to the Emperor and defend the veneration of icons. The wicked Emperor inflicted harsh torture on these two holy brothers and threw them into prison. Later, the iconoclast Emperor Theophilus continued their torture, and, to expose them to the world's ridicule, commanded that derisory words be branded on their faces. At the end of the iconoclast controversy, Theophanes was freed and quickly made bishop. He suffered for the holy icons for twenty-five years, writing a hundred and forty-five Canons in that time. He died peacefully in 847, and entered into the joy of his Lord.
4. St Nectarius, Patriarch of Constantinople.
As a layman and a high-ranking court official, he was chosen as Patriarch after St Gregory the Theologian, in 381. He was distinguished by a deep understanding, tact and zeal for the Church. He entered peacefully into rest in 397.
5. The Holy Martyrs Zinaïs and Philonilla.
They were sisters, born in Tarsus, kinswomen of Paul the Apostle. As virgins, they scorned the world for the sake of Christ and withdrew to a cave to leave in asceticism. They were skilled in medicine, and helped many of the sick. Philonilla especially, for her great fasting, was made worthy of the gift of wonderworking. But unbelievers fell on them one night and stoned them to death.